The United Congress is led by the vision and voices of grassroots communities of color.  We are driven by the diverse leadership of Chicago’s most dynamic community and religious organizations.

Executive Council

JennyJennifer Arwade, Co-Executive Director – Communities United

Jenny Arwade is Co-Executive Director of Communities United (formally known as Albany Park Neighborhood Council or APNC), a community based organization located in one of the most immigrant communities in Chicago.  A graduate of Princeton University, Jenny has been a community organizer since 2000, and Executive Director Communities United since 2004.  In that time, she has worked to organize community residents through local as well as collaborative campaigns to increase access to affordable housing, and affordable health care, improve the quality of public education, and promote immigrant rights. Jenny is also Vice President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, an Executive Council Member of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, and recently worked with 6 other organizations to form Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), a multi-ethnic youth-led community organizing collaborative to tackle the dropout rate in Chicago Public Schools.

JawanzaJawanza Malone, Executive Director – Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO)

Jawanza Malone is the Executive Director for the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) on Chicago’s southside; one of the oldest membership-based grassroots community organizations in Chicago dedicated to serving low-income and working families. Prior to serving as Executive Eirector, Jawanza has held different posts within KOCO – volunteer, board member, program coordinator, and community organizer. As an organizer, Jawanza worked with public housing residents and legal aides to defeat the Chicago Housing Authority’s proposal to mandate annual drug testing for its family and senior housing residents. Jawanza’s extensive background in community organizing and program development has led him to work in both the public and private sectors, philanthropy, and with communities on five continents. Jawanza has received a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Master of the Arts degree in Community Counseling from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. Jawanza seeks to live in accordance with the Kenyan proverb, “Treat the world well for it was not given to you by your parents, it was lent to you by your children.”

IMG_4833Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Executive Director – P.A.S.O. / West Suburban Action Project

It is with excitement P.A.S.O. welcomes Mony Ruiz-Velasco as its new executive director. Mony comes to P.A.S.O. with nearly twenty years experience as an attorney, activist and committed advocate. Mony served on the board of P.A.S.O. for almost three years and has extensive experience working alongside communities and activists. She is a dynamic and committed leader. Most of her career has been in the not-for-profit sector where she managed and implemented legal services programs as the legal director at the National Immigrant Justice Center. Over the past three years, Mony has been actively involved with P.A.S.O. Mony volunteered to provide community empowerment trainings, pro bono legal consultations and information to the community in the West Cook Suburbs. P.A.S.O.’s strengths come from a strong and organized group of community leaders and staff, a deeply committed and diverse Board, and funders who have over the years made an investment in P.A.S.O.’s mission and work. P.A.S.O. is grounded in community organizing, leadership development, community education and civic engagement as methods to build community power.

RamiRami Nashashibi, Executive Director – Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

Rami Nashashibi has served as the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) since its incorporation as a nonprofit in January 1997. He has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago and has been an adjunct professor at various colleges and universities across the Chicagoland area, where he has taught a range of Sociology, Anthropology, and other Social Science courses. He has worked with several leading scholars in the area of globalization, African American studies and urban sociology and has contributed chapters to edited volumes by Manning Marable and Saskia Sassen. Rami has lectured across the United States, Europe, and Asia on a range of topics related to American Muslim identity, community activism and social justice issues, and is a recipient of several prestigious community service and organizing honors. He was named a White House “Champion of Change” in 2011, and was also invited by the governor of Illinois to serve on the Commission for the Elimination of Poverty and as a member of the Governor’s Muslim Advisory Council. Rami lives with his wife and three children on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

KatyaKatya Nuques, Executive Director – Enlace Chicago

Katya Nuques was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Prior to joining Enlace, she worked in the international development field, first as an intern with the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development in New York, and then as a project coordinator for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Peru. Katya joined Enlace Chicago in 2005, where she has played an integral role in expanding the organizations involvement in education, immigration and community engagement. In 2014, Katya was recognized by the Illinois Federation of Community Schools with the Community Schools Leadership Award. She is a board member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and serves on the Advisory Council for the City of Chicago’s Office of New Americans. She is a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow with this year’s class of 2016, and a member of the 2015 Cultivate Women of Color Leadership cohort. “I am very excited, and feel very privileged to be entrusted to lead this organization. I also feel honored to be the first female executive director of Enlace. As we face the future, I will bring to the table the values and principles that make me who I am, and invite our community leaders, partners, friends and supporters to join me and our team as we continue to make a positive difference in the lives of Little Village families”.

Autry Phillips, Executive Director – Target Area Development CorporationAutry2

Autry Phillips has been involved with non-for-profit and Community Organizing work for the last 18 years and has currently worked as the Executive Director of Target Area Development Corporation since 2011. Autry previously served as the Chief Operations Officer for TARGET Area, overseeing staff and various programs that are run by the organization.  Prior to this position, Autry served as the Director of Public Safety, managing Target Area’s street level intervention work, and other various public safety projects. He has traveled with the former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush presenting on Ceasefire model throughout the United States; most recently he conducted street level intervention and organizing training for community organizations in South Africa. Autry received a B.A. in Business Administration from Langston University in Oklahoma and certificate in Non-Profit Management from Kellogg’s School of Business at Northwestern University. Autry has been married to Cheryl Phillips for 20 years and has a 21 year old son, Autry Jr. attending Purdue University and a 10 year old named Justin in the 5th grade.

Rod1Roderick Wilson, Executive Director – Lugenia Burns Hope Center

Roderick Wilson is the Executive Director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center.  He is a board member of the governance board of Chicago Housing Initiative. He has Bachelors of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Northeastern Illinois University. Mr. Wilson is the Chairperson of People United for Action and a Local School Council Trainer with CPS. Rod Wilson has also provided legislative strategy for GYO Illinois.  Before moving to Chicago Rod attended school at Parkland College in Champaign, IL.  Rod was President of the Black Student Association and member of the Dean’s List at Parkland. While in Champaign, Rod coordinated summer camps for pre-schoolers in public housing developments.   In addition, he worked for the Urban League of Champaign County as a Site Coordinator and Curriculum Specialist.  Rod then moved to Chicago in 1997 and worked as an African Dance Instructor with the Youth and Family Resource Center at a local park district facility.  He worked for KOCO briefly as a GED Tutor and Volunteer Coordinator.  He then began working with residents in the Chicago Housing Authority developments of Statewide Gardens and the Robert Taylor Homes with Urban Relocation Services. Before coming to the Hope Center, Rod was one of the senior organizers and program coordinators at the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) from 2000 – 2012.


Ron Taylor 3Pastor Ron Taylor, Executive Director – The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations

Ron is one of the Founding members of UCCRO and served as an Executive Council Board member for 9 years before accepting the Director’s position. He has played a significant role working as a member of the UCCRO Advocacy Team and the legislative victories they’ve had in the last 5 years.  He brings over 16 years of experience in community organizing and non-profit work, serving in different capacities of leadership over those years including as: Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at Target Area Development Corporation for about 8 years; Director of Coalitions and Organizing at Target Area for 4 years and Director of Reentry programs for 3 years. Ron is the founder and currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Disciples for Christ Church for the last 18 years, which is a multiracial church based in Oak Lawn IL. He is nearly complete, working toward his BA in Business at Capella University with a focus on Management and Leadership and has made the Dean’s List each year since starting in the fall of 2011, currently holding a 3.7 GPA.  He’s been married to his wife, Johnnie for 38 years and has a 21 year old daughter, Rebecca, and 18 month old granddaughter, Harmony.

AlheliAlheli Irizarry, Trainer/Organizer – The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations

Alheli joined UCCRO as a staff member in 2015, but has been engaged with the organization since she was a staff at Enlace Chicago since 2009. Alheli comes to UCCRO withwith 12 years of working experience in the non-profit world. She started out as a youth leader with SWOP (Southwest Organizing Project) working on issues affecting undocumented immigrant youth such as in-state tuition at state universities and the DREAM Act. She received organizing training and experience with ICIRR (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights). Alheli is also a citizenship instructor and adult educator, has program management and implementation skills, grant writing experience, budget and financial management, and curriculum development experience. Mrs. Irizarry holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Fine Arts and majored in Latin American and Latino Studies. She was a public figure for DREAMERs (undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as small children). She resides in Berwyn with her husband, Michael and their children Adan and Ivette.

MecoleMecole Jordan, Organizer – The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations

Mecole Jordan graduated from Western Illinois University with a BA in Organizational Communication and Masters of Science degree in Human Resource Management at Capella University. She began her non-profit career volunteering for Target Area Development in 2006-2012 starting with the SMART Act campaign to reduce the criminalization of individuals with drug addiction. She also provided direct oversight for Community Support Advisory Council (CSAC), an IDOC reentry program providing comprehensive wraparound support for the formerly incarcerated and violence prevention programs such as Ceasefire Auburn Gresham. Mecole assisted with grant writing, website design and development, building organizational structure, developing and executing the new hire orientation and training for Target Area’s Safe Passage program. Finally, she conducted trainings and executive administrative support for the Statewide Action and Grassroots Education Initiative (SAGE), building relationships and engaging community organizations and parents in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Rockford, Decatur, Springfield, and Bloomington Illinois. Mecole began working UCCRO’s work in 2010 as a member the advocacy team and trainer for our Racial Equity Curriculum. She aided in the development and execution of UCCRO conventions and annual retreats. In 2013, Mecole worked part-time with UCCRO as the coordinator of the Equal Voice Membership Campaign. In 2015, Mecole organized nearly 800 Illinois Early Intervention providers and parents around the State budget, bringing attention vulnerable infants and toddlers losing needed therapies during the budget impasse. Mecole currently lives in the south suburbs with her 3 year old daughter, Micaela Grace.